Sunday 19th July 2020

Call to Worship: ‘Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time forth and forevermore!

From the rising of the sun to its going down, may the LORD’S name be praised.’ Psalm 113:2-3

PRAISE: Take time now to sing or listen to a hymn of praise as the Psalmist above encourages.

Prayer: Sovereign God, remind us through this simple act of worship of the essentials of faith – love for You and love for others. Touch our hearts by Your Spirit and renew us through the grace of Christ, that our devotion to You and to others might be pleasing to You.  As we come before You now, may we come with hearts open in faith and lives offered in love, in Jesus’ name, the One who taught us to pray, ‘Our Father…’

Reading: Psalm 91 and Romans 8:35-39

Prayers for Others: ‘God hears my simple prayers; He receives my requests.’ Psalm 6:9 As we look towards, God willing, the reopening of our church for Sunday services, take time now to pray for the Kirk Session as they prepare the welcome area and sanctuary for socially distanced worship. Please pray that the measures will keep everyone as safe as possible during these challenging days. Pray for all who may come to worship that they might know God’s presence, guiding and leading as we meet as a fellowship once more, and remember too those who are not able to come to church just yet. For them, pray that through the planned CD ministry and other resources, they will know God’s blessing as they worship in the safety of their home.

Refection: Psalm 91: Resting in the Shadow

When I was growing up, we had a phrase for people who were afraid of things, we called them, ‘scaredy-cat’! I’m a little ashamed to say I used that phrase about others more often than I probably should, but now things have come full circle, because now I’m a bit of a scaredy-cat myself! (My ‘scared of’ list is long and includes the sight of blood, giving blood, injections, doctor, dentist, at times my golf swing, and much, much more!). Life can be full of fears and anxieties and on a more serious note, there has been much in 2020 and the current pandemic that could cause any of us to be fearful….and that’s where Psalm 91 comes in… for it has been described as ‘an anchor of the soul amidst anxiety’…Do you ever feel anxious or afraid or do you know someone who is feeling anxious? If the answer is ‘yes’, then keep your Bible open at Psalm 91 as we ponder this magnificent, all-encompassing, reassuring, and soothing Psalm.

Psalm 91 begins with an invitation, and what an invitation it is: ‘He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty…’ The Psalmist is saying, amidst trials and tribulations, ups and downs, if we will only draw near to God, rest in His shadow, then we can find peace and rest no matter what….no matter what else is going on in our lives…Our Psalmist even models words of faith to say aloud as he invites us to say alongside him, ‘I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” ‘ (v2) He is imploring us as if saying, ‘This is the God I know, and I want you to know Him too…’

The Psalm begins with an invitation and then moves to its promises: ‘Surely he will save you….cover you….you will find refuge….his faithfulness will be your shield…’ (vv3-4). So, saving, covering, shelter and shielding are all promised in the Psalm, but it’s important too to recognise what the Psalm is not saying, for it doesn’t say there won’t be trouble in our lives, it says we don’t need to be afraid of it (verse 5). And the reason we don’t need to be afraid? We’ve made a choice to shelter and rest in God. So, what might that choice mean for you and me in practical terms? It means opening ourselves to God and letting Him draw us into relationship with Him. It means saying yes to an open, honest prayer life that stays in communication with God and a commitment to go deeper and deeper into His Word….and there’s more…for there are little things we can do each day to train and encourage ourselves to ‘rest in the shadow’…Simple things that involve a deliberate slowing down, a pausing before, between or in the middle of things, for example, in the middle of the housework why not pause and pray for someone, or before you head out and about take a moment to pray for the people you might meet, the conversations you might have, before you make a phone call, send an email or message, think about the person you’re about to communicate with and offer that conversation to God….the list could go on and on but the point is a simple one….work on building pauses into your day in which you talk to God, rest in God, commit what you’re doing to God…and as you do you’ll be building up your relationship with your Heavenly Father, allowing Him to strengthen you day by day on the inside, and that strength will be there for when the difficult and challenging times come…

Psalm 91 issues its invitation and lays out its promises and all this leading to closing verses in which God Himself speaks directly to confirm these truths. The final verses are known as, ‘the oracle of salvation’ and they are some of the most reassuring and treasured words in all of Scripture because they remind us we are not safe in God’s hands because we HOPE so, we are safe in God’s hands because God SAYS so…The Psalmist earlier affirmed God’s sheltering hand, now God echoes and affirms those same words, declaring He will rescue, protect, answer and deliver (vv14-15)….Why? Why does God make this promise? The closing verses tell us that as well: it is because He loves us and because we ‘acknowledge His name’ (v14). And all of this of course points us to God’s Son Jesus Christ and the ultimate expression of God’s love as seen in the death of Jesus, who died to rescue you and me from, not just from ‘the fowler’s snare’ or ‘deadly pestilence’, but from ourselves as sinners before a Holy God. God’s ultimate rescue mission….This is the love of God in Christ Jesus, a love from which nothing can separate us (Romans 8:39).

Life is filled with challenges and ups and downs and there are many, many things that may cause any of us to have scaredy-cats moments…. We all, every one of us, need something, someone, to hold on to….something rock-solid, something sure…an anchor for our soul amidst anxiety…and we have that right in front of us in the words, invitation and promise of Psalm 91. Let me encourage you, today, tomorrow, the next day, take time to read and reread this beautiful Psalm…go slowly…pause and pray as you work your way through its verses and as you do so God will bless you as you rest in Him.

Let’s pause now and pray: Heavenly Father, Thank you for Your Word to us today. Whatever each day brings, help us to be more conscious than ever of the closeness of Your presence and the abundance of Your love. Help us, day by day, to rest in Your shadow. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Praise: Close your worship with a time of quiet before God and then a time of praise. Suitable praise items might be: Will your anchor hold in the storms of life/ Rock of ages cleft for me/ All my hope on God is founded.

Benediction: May the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. And the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you all, this day and always. Amen.